WASHINGTON – The lack of congressional action on critical infrastructure legislation is hampering national preparation for a natural or man-made electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, event that could kill 90 percent of the U.S. population due to starvation, disease and societal collapse, charges an expert on the threat.
Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the congressional advisory Task Force on National and Homeland Security and director of the U.S. Nuclear Strategy Forum, contends that the failure to pass the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, or CIPA, is preventing action at the federal, state and local levels to protect the nation from a catastrophic EMP event.
Pry has warned that a natural or nuclear EMP event could black out the national electric grid for months or years and collapse all of the other critical infrastructures essential to sustain a modern society and the lives of 310 million Americans.
The critical infrastructures include communications, transportation, banking, finance, food, water and emergency services.
Pry calls passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act to create a new National Planning Scenario focused on the EMP threat “urgently necessary.”
“As the National Planning Scenarios are the basis for all federal, state and local emergency planning, training and resource allocation, an EMP National Planning Scenario would immediately and significantly improve national preparedness for an EMP catastrophe,” he said.
Pry is referring to some 15 National Planning Scenarios maintained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, each of which outline procedures to act in the event of various catastrophes, such as flooding, hurricanes and even terrorism.
However, EMP is not one of the 15 National Planning Scenarios.
“Thousands of emergency planners and first-responders at the federal, state and local level want to protect our nation and their states and communities from EMP threat,” Pry said. “But they are seriously hindered and even prohibited from doing so, because the EMP threat is not among the 15 canonical National Planning Scenarios used by the Department of Homeland Security.”
Pry pointed out that the federal government, particularly the Department of Defense and the intelligence community, has known about the EMP threat for more than 50 years.
Yet, the EMP threat has only come to the attention of most policymakers and the public relatively recently.
Such a concern only began to come to the public’s attention in unclassified reports in 2004 and 2008 by the congressionally mandated EMP Commission. The panel determined that the secrecy surrounding an EMP event was a greater threat to the nation than revelations of its destructive nature to the U.S. electrical grid system and the life-sustaining critical infrastructures.
Pry said that passage of the CIPA, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., would “immediately mobilize thousands of emergency planners and first responders at all levels of government and educated millions of others, about EMP and how to prepare for it.”
Franks is chairman of the Congressional EMP Caucus and is considered to be one of the leading experts in Congress on EMP.
Pry said the threat of an EMP event is increasing, whether from a natural geomagnetic superstorm or a high-altitude nuclear EMP attack from terrorists or rogue states, such as North Korea, which during the nuclear crisis in 2013.
Pry and other experts have pointed out that the sun is going through its most intense solar storm maximum, which occurs every 11 years, spewing solar flares from its surface into space. Some of these flares can be from 14 to 20 times the size of the Earth.
If there is a direct hit on earth by one of these flares, for example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has projected that the damage to the U.S. alone would be more than $2 trillion in the first year. It would affect some 90 percent of the U.S. population, and the nation would take anywhere from four to 10 years to recover, if ever.
Because of its greater reliance on these critical infrastructures for survival, urban centers could be all but wiped out, EMP experts say.
In addition, there is the threat of an EMP from a manmade high-altitude nuclear explosion that would affect the U.S. population over a wide geographic area, well beyond anything that local utilities would be able to handle.
Pry said North Korea appears to be developing nuclear weapons that are not large in kilotons but are designed to emit more gamma rays, which he calls a “super-EMP” bomb.
North Korea also has demonstrated the ability to place vehicles into orbit. Such a device could be a nuclear weapon capable of orbiting Earth and detonating over large, populated areas.
Following its nuclear tests in December 2012, Pyongyang began to threaten the U.S. with pre-emptive nuclear strikes and published videos showing nuclear attacks on New York City and Washington.
Because the federal government hasn’t taken national action to date to confront an EMP event, various states now are trying to do something about it, but action is slow and not consistent.
“Passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act would immediately help states that are frustrated with lack of action on EMP in Washington and are trying to launch initiatives protecting their electrical grids from EMP, as is being attempted now in Maine, Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida,” Pry said.